On May 6, 2016, Pope Francis received the 2016 Charlemagne Prize for “his encouragement and message of hope for peace and coexistence” in Europe.
On May 6, 2016, Pope Francis received the 2016 Charlemagne Prize for “his encouragement and message of hope for peace and coexistence” in Europe. According to the issue of Le Figaro dated December 23, 2015, the date on which the name of the 2016 winner was made public by the municipality of Aix-La-Chapelle, this prize “has recognized an exceptional contribution to European reunification each year” since 1950.
What was not mentioned was that the ceremony took place at the Vatican, not in the German town of Aachen. In the presence of top-ranking leaders of the main institutions of Europe, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and King Felipe of Spain, the Holy Father expressed his dream of a “new European humanism,” a “young Europe” capable of “still being a mother”, where “being a migrant is not a crime.”
In his speech, available on the Vatican’s website, the Holy Father never mentioned the “Christian roots of Europe.” He preferred to recall that “European identity is, and has always been, a dynamic and multicultural identity.” As for the role of the Church in this “dream,” Pope Francis affirmed that it “can and must contribute to the renewal” of the continent provided that it is “rich in witnesses”, so that it can “once again give the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe.”
Nearly two weeks later on May 19, 2016, while receiving six new ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, Francis also delivered a speech focused on the welcoming of migrants. “Many people tend to isolate themselves from the harshness of reality” he lamented. He said that he wished for “integration that respects the identity of migrants and preserves the culture of the host community, while at the same time mutually enriching them.”
In an interview published the same day by the French daily La Croix, the Pontiff admitted that we “cannot open wide the doors in an irrational way.” He denounced, however, the “ghettos” and called for “integration,” citing as an example the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim and son of Pakistanis who “took an oath in a cathedral…. This shows Europe the importance of regaining its ability to integrate.”
On May 10 La Croix cited the report in the Czech daily Lidove noviny that Cardinal Dominik Duka, Archbishop of Prague, “[had] shown skepticism about Pope Francis’ handling of the question about migrants.” Recalling the Supreme Pontiff’s trip to the Greek island of Lesbos and his decision to bring migrants to the Vatican in April 2016, he declared: “This is not a comprehensive solution.” He also reproached the media for focusing on the Pope and forgetting that the latter “sent Cardinal Pietro Paolin to the U.N. to ask for a humanitarian intervention.” He admits nevertheless that “the sensitivity of Pope Francis on social issues is different from ours, in Europe,” recalling his South American roots, where “the gap between the rich and the poor is more significant.”
In an editorial published on May 9 entitled “Lots of Errors in Francis’ Immigration Policy,” a contributor to the Italian blog Campari & de Maistre suspects the Holy Father of loving “the poor so much that he wants more of them.” Fearing that the “new humanism” proclaimed during the presentation of the Charlemagne Prize is “in the final analysis terribly confused,” Alessandro Rico wonders whether Pope Francis wants to “put the person at the center of society, in line with his predecessors, or the abstract man of the ideology of enlightened Freemasonry?” And he concludes: “The zigzagging of this papacy seems to throw Catholics who have been led astray into confusion more than it comforts them.”
Sources: apic/imedia/afp/lefigaro/vatican/benoitetmoi/lacroix – DICI no. 336 dated May 27, 2016